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Best Macro Lenses

We round up the top macro lenses reviewed by ePHOTOzine that are the perfect choice for macro and close-up photography, including product photography.

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Best Lenses For Macro Photography

Best Macro Lenses

If you're looking for the best macro lens, then you've come to the right place. Here at ePHOTOzine, we have reviewed hundreds of interchangeable lenses in our time so when you guys are out shopping for a new lens, you have as much information as possible for making your decisions. Among our large review collection is a rather long list of lenses which are designed to capture excellent macro images and close-up photos. Macro lenses are great for detailed close-up shots, product photography, insect photography and more, but can also be used as a portrait lens.

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An Introduction To Macro Lenses 

Stamps close-up

 

There are technical terms that define what macro means and although the description is precise its application to lens names and descriptions can be slightly more flexible. Macro means a lens that can reproduce a subject at a magnification of 1:1, or 1x, also known as life-size. This simply means that a subject 1cm long would be 1cm long on the film or sensor. This means that the lens must focus very close and most current true macro lenses will indeed produce images at a 1:1 magnification. For those buying older lenses, the norm used to be a magnification of 1:2, or 0.5x, also known as half-life size. Zoom lenses can often focus very close, and may be referred to as macro, but usually only offer magnifications of around 1:4, or 0.25x, also known as one-quarter life size.

There are other properties that are desirable in a macro lens. Obviously high quality even at close distances needs to be maintained. It is also important that the image should be in focus all across the frame, in other words, have a flat field. For example, to copy documents it is no good if a lens is sharp in the centre but fuzzy at the edges because the image projected is not flat but curved. So a flat field is essential. Another major requirement is low distortion, so that straight lines, especially at the edges of an image, remain straight lines.

There are some modern features on cameras and lenses that may not always be the best option for very close macro work. AF itself may not be accurate or convenient, and some shots will be better served by using manual focus. Shake reduction/vibration reduction/image stabilisation may or may not serve well, and lenses may provide instructions that are specific.

 

Portrait

 

As regards focal length, if we consider full frame sensors, then the most popular is probably the 100mm. That is because it enables 1:1 magnification at twice the distance compared to a 50mm, thus not crowding wildlife subjects and allowing space for lighting. There are exceptions of course, and for document copying the 50mm might be a better choice in that it allows for less height using a tripod-mounted camera, and hence an easier view of the camera monitor.

If we relate this to APS-C sensors, then the focal lengths vary accordingly and rather than a 50mm, a 35mm macro might be more suitable. Rather than a 100mm, perhaps the 50mm or, where available, the 60mm. The actual focal lengths on offer will show some variation around these figures. MFT format lenses would be the 25mm instead of a 50mm, or the 50mm instead of a 100mm.

 

Camera Dial

 

Finally, there are macro lenses that offer images of greater-than-life-size reproduction, perhaps going to 2:1, where a 1cm long subject would be 2cm long on the film or sensor. There are also lenses that extend the normal focal lengths available and 180mm or 200mm macro lenses also have a following, at a very high price.

Whichever lens is chosen, photographers can be pretty sure that a prime macro lens will be a great lens. There are no poor macro lenses.

 

Best Macro Lenses 

Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM
Overall Rating

Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM

The Canon RF 100mm f/2.8L MACRO IS USM is a great macro lens that's inexpensive with 

unique and potentially very useful features. How we relate this to value for money is something that will be very personal to each photographer, as there are plenty of very fine macro lenses available at all sorts of price levels.

The extra magnification is welcome, the SA control is quite unique and offers unprecedented control over SA and hence bokeh. The high price is less welcome, but even that may be tolerable for those photographers who have the regular need for the features on offer.

In summary, the lens may well justify its cost and is duly awarded the accolade of 'Editor's Choice'.

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Voigtlander 110mm F/2.5 Macro APO Lanthar
Overall Rating

Voigtlander 110mm F/2.5 Macro APO Lanthar

The Voigtlander 110mm f/2.5 Macro APO Lanthar is an excellent macro lens that also works extremely well with the Sony A7R III body, and no doubt with the other Sony bodies as well. It is fairly heavy and bulky, so maybe trying to use it with a crop sensor body would be a bit out of proportion, but it is absolutely fine on full-frame.

A nice touch is the electronic compatibility and this ensures that focusing out in the field is a smooth and very easy process. On a tripod shooting macro lenses, the performance is impeccable and AF is not really necessary.

The verdict is a really classy lens that is a pleasure to use and delivers fantastic results, a natural "Editor's Choice".

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Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S
Overall Rating

Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

The 105mm focal length is versatile and covers a multitude of subjects and is well-established as a firm favourite in macro lenses. This new Nikkor packages this into a well-balanced lens with an outstanding performance, as well as smooth and effective handling.

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Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Macro
Overall Rating

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 Macro

The Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 gives a superb performance, excellent handling and a light, compact form factor all sum up this excellent macro lens. There are no bad macro lenses, but this one pushes the envelope out a little further and excels.

It also has advantages over the usual 100mm lenses in that we do not have unreasonably long working distances for tabletop photography, and indeed for the copying of documents. In addition, the lens makes an excellent standard lens for full-frame cameras. On APS-C format it would make an excellent short telephoto for portraiture, having a “35mm equivalent” field of view of approximately 75mm.

In summary, the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is a very welcome addition to the Nikon Z series repertoire and a definite Editor's Choice.

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Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2
Overall Rating

Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2

Many photographers prefer a standard lens that is wider than the traditional 50mm, and 35mm is often the favoured choice. It is wide enough to give a slightly increased field of view and yet still has good geometry and high standards of sharpness. 

Focusing is down to 15cm, or 5.9 inches, a maximum magnification of 1:2, or half life-size. There is no doubt that this is a huge bonus, being as close as most macro lenses used to be in the days of film SLRs. Now that we are looking at a 35mm lens, and particularly with the design of lens hood, closest focus is slightly further away than with the 20mm and 24mm lenses, allowing more room for lighting even with hood attached.

The Tamron 35mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 fulfils all of the needs of a high-class 35mm lens at a very attractive price level. What's not to like?

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Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2
Overall Rating

Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2

Here we have the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M 1:2 prime lens for Sony FE mount full-frame cameras that has a macro close focus magnification of half life-size which is no doubt that this is a huge bonus, being as close as most macro lenses used to be in the days of film SLRs. However, to achieve this magnification the subject does end up very close to the front of the lens, so at these distances, the lens hood may need to be removed to allow a little space for lighting. The front element is well-recessed, so this is unlikely to be much of a problem. Overall, this lens offers superb handling and performance. 

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Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2
Overall Rating

Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2

A compact, moisture-resistant lens with a macro magnification of 1:2, all for under £400, is by any yardstick an excellent value-for-money option. The quality of the results clinches it. The Tamron 20mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 is a very sound, high-quality option and easily achieves the accolade of Editor's Choice.

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Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly
Overall Rating

Irix 150mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1 Dragonfly

Irix has built an enviable reputation for interesting, high-quality optics, concentrating on areas relatively neglected by other manufacturers. Here we have a long 150mm macro lens that offers a full 1:1 life-size magnification for Canon, Nikon and Pentax full-frame DSLR users. The lens is manual focus only, although especially in the case of a macro lens this may be of little concern. 

The greater reach of 150mm will be welcomed, and indeed is highly sought after already as photographers search for legendary long macro lenses from the days of film.

Manual focus can often be the method of choice for macro work, depending upon the techniques needed, but at least can be regarded as a little impediment. This is an excellent addition to the options available, especially perhaps for Pentax users who have had no option at all before this.

A specialised lens to some degree, but one that can be Highly Recommended.

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Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art
Overall Rating

Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art

Sigma has provided a well-made, solid macro lens that delivers very impressive image quality. It operates flawlessly, albeit it with slightly slower than average AF, but proves an excellent overall match for the Canon EOS 5DS R.

The 70mm focal length is a good compromise for the full-frame bodies. For APS-C cameras the “35mm format equivalent” would be 112mm for Canon. This means that a 50mm macro might be a better choice for APS-C if the user wanted a similar field of view to the one this lens offers in full frame.

However, in summary, the Sigma lens offers all the right things in terms of handling and quality and is well worth considering as an alternative to the more common focal lengths.

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Fujifilm Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR 1:1 Macro
Overall Rating

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR 1:1 Macro

There is no doubt that the Fujinon 80mm f/2.8 Macro is a superb lens, but then so it should be as it is priced considerably above the rest of the market. It is hard to find a bad macro lens where they all aspire to excellence, being a flagship optic for most marques.

It's always a dilemma, but in summary, the lens is outstanding but the price is high. It will serve those who take the plunge and buy it very well and looks likely to last for many years of hard service.

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Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro
Overall Rating

Canon TS-E 90mm f/2.8L Macro

Some lenses gel straight away, others grow on us and this one grows on us very quickly as the new possibilities of mixing a 90mm lens with macro and tilt and shift start to fire the imagination. A superb lens offering the highest quality and exciting creative possibilities.

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Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro
Overall Rating

Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro

The Canon range of tilt and shift lenses is unique and impressive, and without a doubt, if there is a commercial need for what they offer then they will be purchased for that purpose and the price will be acceptable. The fact that it is a macro lens, as well as a tilt and shift lens, is a very powerful combination. The Canon TS-E 135mm f/4L Macro is a beautiful lens and has the potential to produce beautiful and unique results, but for an amateur purchase, we would need deep pockets.

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Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro
Overall Rating

Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro

Take a 50mm f/2.8 full frame standard lens, make it a macro that focuses down to half life-size and then give it tilt and shift capability and you have this chunky, impressive-looking optic from Canon. The exciting potential of this is far-reaching and overall, the Canon TS-E 50mm f/2.8L Macro is a superb, versatile lens of the highest quality.

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Olympus M.Zuiko 30mm f/3.5 Macro
Overall Rating

Olympus M.Zuiko 30mm f/3.5 Macro

30mm (60mm equivalent) is slightly unusual for a macro lens – most would be 50mm or 100mm in 35mm-equivalent terms. However, in practice, it proves to be very convenient and it does lend itself well to the shooting of portraits. We are given the greatest freedom, though, with the lens's ability to focus from infinity all the way down to ultra-close macro seamlessly. This makes for a powerful slightly long standard lens, in all respects except of course a large, bright aperture. It is compact, and efficient, although lacking in some features that can be useful on a dedicated macro, such as the focusing and depth of field scales. Nonetheless, if a compact, inexpensive lens is required then the performance will not disappoint.

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Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro
Overall Rating

Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro

Meike is an independent lens manufacturer continuing to provide low-cost, innovative designs, and, sometimes, unusual specifications. This new 85mm f/2.8 macro lens is unusual in that it focuses down to 1.5x life-size. Most macro lenses stop at life-size, and some older designs even at half-life-size. All the accuracy of the focusing is concentrated in the macro range and the image snaps clearly into focus in the viewfinder or on the monitor screen.

The Meike 85mm f/2.8 Macro lens is a well-made, well-priced lens that will do the job efficiently and to an excellent standard.

 

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Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro
Overall Rating

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro

The 50mm lens is a universally useful optic and the ability to continue to focus right down to life-size is very appealing indeed. The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens is an excellent performer and a pleasure to use, at a realistic price.

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Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS
Overall Rating

Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

The Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro is a well-made and versatile macro lens that delivers superb results. It is slick in use and the results are excellent throughout. It works so well with the A7R II that if I were using this system this lens would definitely be one of the essentials to buy.

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Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD
Overall Rating

Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD

Tamron's 90mm Macro lenses have always enjoyed an enviable reputation, both in their original manual focus guise and later with auto-focus added to the specification. 

This one takes performance to a new peak and is very comfortable to use. There does remain the possibility of picking up the previous model at a much lower price but that is always a dilemma when lenses are updated.

This is a lens that has been a pleasure to use, from the crisp view through the viewfinder to the satisfaction of the quality of images opened on the monitor screen. Tamron has continued the legacy reputation of their 90mm Macro in an accomplished way.

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Laowa 15mm f/4 1:1 Macro
Overall Rating

Laowa 15mm f/4 1:1 Macro

This is a very versatile lens with some unique features for the focal length. It has commendably high central sharpness and very low levels of CA. Distortion and vignetting are high and edge sharpness suffers. In the right hands, the Laowa 15mm f/4 should produce some excellent dramatic images, all at a fairly modest price level. Performance is better on APS-C format cameras.

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Vivitar Auto Macro 55mm f/2.8 Vintage Lens
Overall Rating

Vivitar Auto Macro 55mm f/2.8 Vintage Lens

The main advantage of this vintage lens is that it's able to focus right down to 1:1, whereas most macro lenses of its era only went down to half-life size, or 1:2. The Vivitar is a totally viable macro option and should give excellent service. A classic lens with its reputation vindicated.

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Comments


Gogliamo 13 1 United Kingdom
19 Oct 2022 11:41AM
Is my NIKKOR Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S lens so bad that it isn't even mentioned in this list of Macro lenses?
19 Oct 2022 1:07PM
The ones listed are the ones that have been reviewed, those being the ones we could pass comment on. We can request one for review and catch up! Thanks for pointing it out.
23 Oct 2022 6:02AM
Seriously out of date review?
The Z series 105 F2.8 is an excellent macro with brilliant sharpness. Highly recommended from me. In addition all the other reviews I have seen of it think it is very good indeed. Not including it seems like a huge oversight.
23 Oct 2022 10:08AM
One has been requested for review and it will be added when the review is completed.
denzo 6
23 Oct 2022 11:08AM
Nikon AF Micro Nikkor 200Dmm f4 ED is older but one of the best macro/micro lenses produced by Nikon, alongside 55 mm Micro Nikkor f 3,5 or 2,8, which should be attached on PB macro bellows for best results. Sigma 150 mm f2,8 EXDG OS HSM Macro is older but an excellent macro lens is a lens to consider. Tokina ATX 100 mm Macro 2,8 is also a great lens when considering cost and of course, above mentioned 105 mm Micro Nikon is an excellent choice for Nikon shooters.

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